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The movie has been well received in the U.K., despite focusing on a sport few British people understand.

“Don’t tell anyone it’s got baseball in it,” Pitt advised. “It might as well be about cricket.”

The best actress category includes two performers playing real-life icons _ Streep as Thatcher and Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn.”

Co-star Kenneth Branagh praised Williams’ “transcendent performance” in the film, which charts Monroe’s experience making the 1957 comedy “The Prince and the Showgirl” with Laurence Olivier

Branagh has a best supporting actor nomination for playing Olivier, and said the late actor was one of his inspirations.

“I wrote to him once when I was 19 and asked for advice,” Branagh said. “And he wrote back: ‘Just have a bash and hope for the best.’”

The other best-actress nominees are Berenice Bejo for “The Artist,” Tilda Swinton for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and Davis for “The Help.”

The multinational best-director contest pits Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist” against Denmark’s Nicolas Winding Refn, for the turbocharged “Drive,” Sweden’s Tomas Alfredson for “Tinker Tailor,” Britain’s Lynne Ramsay for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and Scorsese for “Hugo.”

Scorsese is also nominated in the documentary category, for “George Harrison: Living in the Material World,” and is due to receive a the BAFTA Fellowship for his “outstanding and exceptional” contribution to cinema in films including “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.”

Veteran British actor John Hurt also is being honored for a career that includes memorable roles in “Elephant Man,” “The Naked Civil Servant” and “Alien.”

In recent years, the British awards have helped underdog films gain momentum for Hollywood success.

In 2010, Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” won seven BAFTAs, including best film; it went on to take eight Oscars. Last year “The King’s Speech” won seven BAFTAs and four Oscars, including best picture.



Jill Lawless can be reached at: